Istres > Les Saintes Maries de la Mer 151.6km
Strap yourself in, this stage is going to be a cracker.
We have 40km/h wind coming from the north, and lots of exposed roads. This is a nightmare for some of the skinny climbers, their GC bid will be over before it even begins.
Much of the opening 65km is headwind, then the fun begins. The vast majority of the final 90km of the stage will have crosswind or cross/tailwind. With the wind up at 40km/h, and gusting stronger, it’s going to be utter chaos. In all honesty, we don’t have the strongest start list in the world, it won’t take much to split this peloton.
Ineos and QuickStep are the teams most likely to benefit from these conditions, despite only starting with six and five men respectively. They might have fewer men than some other teams, but they are full of power. They will turn this day from a sprint stage into a GC day, although, a sprinter is still likely to win. It will be a case of looking to see who survives the echelons, sprinters are normally very good in these conditions. It won’t surprise me to see the final group contain GC riders and a few fast men.
Nice and easy, with a lovely tailwind pushing the riders all the way to the line.
Ineos – they’ll be looking to split the race and have two solid options for the win, Viviani and Hayter. The Italian will be their first option, but if he doesn’t survive the wind then Hayter will get his chance. With Ganna, Rowe and Puccio they have lots of experience and power, they’ll be looking to put other teams into trouble. Carapaz survived the echelons in Bessèges, he’ll be hoping for a similar performance here.
Israel – Premier Tech – Barbier, Bevin, Van Asbroeck, Vanmarcke and Würtz Schmidt, that’s an excellent looking team for windy conditions. This will be great preparation for Vanmarcke, he’ll be looking forward to a tough day in the saddle and classics style racing. They might not have the big names of Ineos and QuickStep, but they are strong and have the numbers to surprise.
Bryan Coquard – another who survived the windy conditions in Bessèges. Cofidis don’t look strong, that will be a concern for Coquard, but his form is good.
Arnaud Démare – winner of multiple stages in Paris-Nice, Démare is very good in windy conditions. Groupama – FDJ don’t have their top team at this race, but I would still expect to see Démare make the front selection.
Philippe Gilbert – I’ve been impressed by his start to the season, this stage is a good opportunity for him. The Belgian is strong in tough conditions, and his experience gives him an advantage over many riders. If we get a reduced sprint, he’ll be up there challenging for the win.
Lorenzo Manzin – TotalEnergies are one of the few teams to have a full complement of seven riders. Bodnar should be able to guide Manzin through the echelons, and the little sprinter packs a fine punch.
Julian Alaphilippe – he’ll be like a pig in shit! What we all love about Alaphilippe is the fact he’s a racer. You can bet he’ll be up the front, throwing some punches. QuickStep only have five riders, but they have lots of quality. Expect to see Serry, Devenyns and Alaphilippe mixing it with the best and trying to expose the weaker riders.
I’ll take a win for Elia Viviani. He’s started the season in good form, and I think he’ll survive the echelons.
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